Don’t call it a comeback: Classic hip-hop is making inroads on select radio stations, and the results thus far have been positive. Two months ago, Houston station KROI-FM changed their format from news to classic hip-hop. KROI-FM, now known as Boom 92, has been spinning all the best Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., and De La Soul songs that hip-hop OGs grew up on. Big broadcasters like Radio One, iHeartMedia, and Cumulus Media have all reformatted various stations around the country to only play Golden Era hip-hop.
Thus far, the data suggests that the change is welcome, but there is some early cause for concern. When KROI-FM became Boom 92, its audience tripled from 245,000 to 802,00, according to Nielsen. Its share (the percentage of active radios tuned to a station) also increased from 1.0 to 3.2.
Dallas and Philadelphia have also seen changes in two of their local stations. According to Nielsen, those stations have had their respective audiences grow as well. When Philadelphia’s WPHI-FM became Boom Philly in earlier November, its audience increased from 534,000 to 736,000. Dallas’ KSOC-FM also had a similar bump, going from 524,000 to 724,000 listeners after making the switch.
Radio executives view these flips as a market void that’s now being filled. Similar to how classic rock stations emerged in the 1980s, some see classic hip-hop’s radio rise as a timely business move.
The New York Times spoke to Doc Wynter, the senior vice president for urban programming at iHeartMedia. With many Golden Era OGs now in that 35-49 age bracket, Wynter sees an underserved market of hip-hop fans in radio. “Don’t get me wrong. I think Drake is great. But hip-hop back then was about telling a story about your struggle and your family’s struggle. Now the reigning hip-hop king is a multiracial guy from Toronto who did not struggle,” says Wynter.
Newer data, however, could put a damper on Wynter’s excitement. The month after Boom 92’s jump in growth, the station saw its numbers recede. In November, Boom 92’s audience dropped 2.6 percent to 781,000, and its share dropped from 3.2 to 2.9.
With the ratings booming and then fluctuating, classic hip-hop stations in select cities will be on trend-watch in 2015.
[via The New York Times]